Molly Yeh’s Basic Challah

An old friend from camp once told me that you can tell if a challah recipe is good by looking at how much oil and sugar there is in it. The more of those things, the better. Amen.

Challah dough is my safety blanket dough. I use it for everything. Donuts, babka, monkey bread. Its sweet, moist nature makes it adaptable to just about any shape and filling.

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Basic Challah

Makes 2 loaves

4½ teaspoons (2 envelopes)
active dry yeast
1½ cups warm water
1 teaspoon plus ¼ cup sugar
6½ cups flour, plus more for dusting (or sub in up to 2½ cups whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 large eggs
⅔ cup flavorless oil
¼ cup additional sweetener: sugar, brown sugar, honey, or molasses
Egg wash: 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1) In a medium bowl, combine the yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and give it a little stir. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.

2) Meanwhile, in a large bowl or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together the flour, salt, and remaining ¼ cup sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and additional sweetener.

3) When the yeast is foamy, add it to the dry mixture immediately followed by the egg mixture and stir to combine. Knead, either by hand on a floured surface or with the dough hook until you have a smooth and slightly sticky dough, 7 to 10 minutes, adding more white flour as necessary (but resist any urge to add too much!).

4) Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and let it sit at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours. (It will take slightly longer if you’re using whole wheat flour.) Alternatively, you can stick it in the refrigerator overnight and then let it sit at room temperature for about 1 hour before shaping.

5) To shape the dough in the traditional braided way, go on to the next step. For other ideas, see the opposite page.

6) Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and, working with half of the dough at a time (keeping the other half covered), pat the dough out into a long rectangle, roughly 3 inches by 12 inches (this doesn’t need to be exact). From this, cut 3 long and skinny rectangles and roll them out a bit to get 3 long snakes. Pinch them together at one end and then braid the snakes and pinch them at the other end. Transfer the loaf to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining half of the dough. Let them rise, covered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

7) Preheat the oven to 375º F.

8) Brush the loaves with a thin even layer of egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until the loaves are golden brown and have an internal temperature of 190ºF. Begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes.

9) Let the loaves cool until they’re jusssst cool enough that they won’t burn your mouth, and then enjoy with lots of butter.

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Related:

Excerpted from “Molly on the Range” by Molly Yeh. By permission of Rodale Books.

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